How to Spot Low Morale & 5 Things We Can Do About It

The walls are lined with welcoming bulletin boards, the floors are shiny clean, and there’s optimism in the air, everything is ready for a “bright and shiny new year.” Teachers and staff have worked hard to ensure that everything is just right for the students to return to campus, but are each of them ready to take on this school year? With the pandemic lingering, no doubt, there is still concern that this year might be as challenging as last year. 

For many, plans for a “normal” school year have already had to pivot. Now, more than ever, it’s important for administrators to actively monitor and boost morale. Teachers and staff who are happy, feel valued, and appreciated are essential. Morale is truly the lifeblood of a positive campus culture. If we ignore this, we fail in our most important mission, student learning and achievement. 

How can we spot low morale? 

Spotting low morale is usually pretty easy, but sometimes it’s not so subtle. Here are five indicators that someone may be struggling with low morale: 

  • Overall demeanor – that frown rarely turns upside down  
  • Uncooperative behavior – refuses to work with other team members
  • Complaints – they have a few and aren’t afraid to express them often
  • Minimum effort – tasks may be completed, but just barely
  • Attendance – always late, always the first out the door, and often absent

What can we do about low morale? 

You may feel that building morale has to be some grand gesture, but in reality there are some very simple ways to help build and encourage teachers and staff. Here are just a few: 

  • Create a caring community where teachers feel supported and are encouraged to support one another. Be a “we” leader not a “me” leader. Let your teachers know that you are all in this together. Make connections with your teachers, meet with them, get to know them. Visit their classrooms for more than just formal observations. Interact with their students, perhaps read a story. Seek veteran teachers to mentor new teachers. This will help foster relationships and grow bonds that will keep staff strong and committed.
  • Keep teachers focused on their “Why.” It can be easy to get bogged down in the daily grind of lesson plans, standards, testing, and challenging students causing them to become drained and lose the joy of teaching. When we come alongside them and remind them that they are making a huge difference in the lives of their students, we give them fuel to go on. 
  • Involve teachers in school decisions whenever possible. By leading collaboratively your teachers will be more interested in the process and invested in the outcome. So often, administrators feel like they have to single-handedly solve all the school’s problems, but in reality, if teachers are encouraged to help, they will feel like they have made a positive contribution to not only their classroom, but the campus. 
  • Notice the little things teachers do and recognize them for it. You don’t have to make grand gestures or spend a lot of money to do this. Take a couple minutes now and then to write a note letting them know their work is appreciated or stop them in the hall to compliment them. Give them a shout out on the announcements or in a faculty meeting to let them know how much you appreciate the work they do. Encourage everyone on campus to look for the good and acknowledge their colleagues.  

As the 2021–2022 school year begins, it may feel like there is not enough time for morale building. It may seem like it is something that can wait. However, morale and student outcomes are inextricably intertwined. We just can’t have one without the other. If your campus goal is student success, building morale among teachers and staff is imperative. We hope the ideas listed above will give you the motivation and inspiration to begin taking small steps towards big outcomes. 

Next week on the blog we are discussing ways educators can protect their mental health and recommend self-care practices from leading experts.

Sabrina Valverde is an educator, entrepreneur, educational trainer/consultant, and published author. She is a fiercely passionate advocate for children and has worked in many settings to foster an environment where all children can succeed. Sabrina holds a Master’s of Education in Instructional Leadership and believes that equipping teachers with the best curriculum, resources, and professional development is the cornerstone to student achievement.

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